I spent some time this morning getting the caravan ready for a guest who is arriving this afternoon. I also did some cleaning and tidying of the main room in the house. Cleaning is a much underrated activity. If you are doing it merely because it has to be done, and trying to get through it as quickly as possible so that you can sit down with a cup of tea then it will be a drudge.
In her book Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach to Living with Physical and Emotional Pain, Darlene Cohen, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, describes spending a summer on the staff of a resort. Since she was spending most of the day in meetings she requested the job of cabin-cleaning so the she could get some vigorous exercise each day. Here is how she did it:
Because there was no conceptual thinking required on this job, I spent the entire work period every day as an exercise session, interweaving my movements and the contact I had with inanimate objects. It required particular intimacy between my body and my task. I did backbends and stretches while changing the bed linen; I twisted my body rhythmically to sweep floors; I hung sequentially from each vertebra in my back to scour the toilet; I squeezed the Windex bottle with all five fingers, alternating my hands, to wash the windows. I breathed fully and deeply to set a rhythm for my body movements. After a few weeks of this activity I was exhilarated and bursting with energy. My posture had improved dramatically as a result of changing between twenty and forty beds each morning.
Cleaning one’s own living space also seems to freshen up the energy in the room. Even if you are sick and can only manage to dust your altar it can make more difference than you might think.